They Are the Happy Couples

I was recently at a wedding that had the most gorgeous flower arrangements I’ve seen yet. They were these driftwood-and-candle businesses, and quite breathtaking. I commented to a friend that there were certain perks to getting married late: you can collect the best ideas from every wedding to make your own absolutely fantabulous.

There are other pros to marrying late. You have more time to collect and think about all sorts of marriage-related topics, including marriage itself. You find out how many of your friends fell in love at first sight and how many were still wondering, “Is this the right guy?” under the chupah. You observe how they interact with their husbands and what roles they take on in the house. It’s both interesting and educational.

Take, for example, the time I was at a married friend on a Thursday night. Circumstances prevented the laundry from being done until close to midnight – and it included the sheets I would need to sleep. The Mister put up the laundry at the local laundromat and then settled on the couch with a DVD while we worked on some kugel for Shobbos.

The Mrs, weighed down with the task of remembering everything that needed to be done before Shobbos (and before her yawning guest could get some shut-eye), was feeling a bit stressed out. Suddenly she looked up from the potatoes. “Husband,” said she, “Go check on the laundry.” He surfaced from cinema-land and checked his watch. “It’s only been in for half an hour,” he pointed out.

“I don’t care,” she replied hectically. “Maybe it finished. Just check!”

He paused the video, unplugged his ears, and went. I was astonished. “I can’t believe he did that,” I informed her.

“Did what?” she asked, distracted.

“Actually went. If my own mother had told me to do something so ridiculous, especially while I was in middle of something, I would have argued.”

The anxiety cleared off her face and was replaced by a happy, dopey, and slightly soppy, expression. “I know! He’s wonderful! I love him!”
I humbly realized that her husband was ahead of me in prioritizing. He realized that the facts don’t make a difference when someone is feeling stressed. They just want to know that things are orderly and happening. And if you care about them, you’ll go the extra mile to provide that illusion.

I’m glad to say that my friend reciprocates, treating her husband’s less rationale needs as if they were the most important things in the world.

Just observing and listening to stories, I gather that the happiest couples are the ones who have high tolerance for each other’s foibles. “Tolerance” is even the wrong word. “Respect” or even “admiration” might be better. A sort of appreciation that the things that are most annoying about the person are often part and parcel of what make them most wonderful.

Metaphorically, it’s probably like the scene from Making Money (another Pratchett novel) where an artist has his sense of identity swapped for that of a turnip. The artist is no longer paranoid, jittery, or hallucinating. But neither can he draw to save his life. The turnip, on the other hand… never mind.

The story that crystallized it for me was the story of a couple who slept on mattresses on the floor for their first month in their new apartment so that she could have her upright piano that she absolutely needed. Later on, he used to take time off to accompany her on antique-hunting forays into the wilds of Sunday morning garage sales. Some might roll their eyes and say, “That’s what happens when you married someone cultured,” but her husband (who liked any chair, so long as it didn’t wobble too much) loved that as part and parcel of the best of her. And it was worth being uncomfortable for a few weeks or wasting (“wasting”) a few Sundays.

Her biggest complaint against him was lack of ambition, or maybe too much modesty, or whatever, but in the same breath that she’d complain that he was too quiet, she’d admire how much he did in that quiet way. She realized that they went together, and only made a fuss about it when she felt he was really crippling himself.

Here’s another interesting something to chew on: a story of a him who wanted to marry a her even though his parents were adamantly against her. Her parents were against him because his parents were against her – they didn’t want their daughter being miserable. Finally, her parents made him sign and swear that in any family disputes, he would always take his wife’s side. He did and they married. Imagine how interesting it must be to be forced to always agree with your spouse and to think, while you’re choking back the spleen – “I’m doing this because I crazy love her/him.” (They’re still married, decades later.)

I wonder what would happen if a couple without extenuating circumstances tried the same thing.

Maybe I’ll try it on some immediate family.


14 thoughts on “They Are the Happy Couples

  1. Ohhhh do I have experience. After watching so many friends get married, I learned a whole lot about every aspect of engagement and marriage. I’m not sure if that’s a pro or con of getting married “later”.

  2. It makes me so happy to see my friends married to people who respect them and treat them properly. And I think it definitely is an advantage to getting married “later”; you get to see dynamics of so many different marriages and I think it has helped me clarify what I need in a spouse.

  3. that is so sweet. Wow. It is nice to take notes at different weddings, and know what you want and whatever. But on the real things- each person and marriage is so different, so relative, that sometimes seeing other people’s marriages and such is not always a good thing. Because then it leaves room for comparison.

  4. i think the best part about marrying later is that you have more time to work on yourself. and by the time you marry, you know yourself and what you can offer your other half… and you appreciate it all that much more…

  5. Absolutely agreed. I chewed out a friend of mine who for a few years was dumping girls rather fast everytime he noticed something that he didn’t like. I told him that part of it is seeing if those things are things that you really care about or if that’s just part of the person that you’ll really grow to like. He didn’t realize those were often the same things he liked about the person, just manifested differently in a different situation.

    The very things about my wife that ‘bother’ me the most are most often the things I love most about her in general.

    PS He got engaged a couple of girls later. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. As someone who got married EARLY (not by shidduch dating, just met my husband by chance)I can definitely see how immature and just plain silly I was when I first got married. Thank g-d we have a great marriage, but we kind of had to mature together and I can see how things might have been easier had we met later in life. Not that I’m regretting it though!

  7. I don’t think that all the things you saw are things that you can only see if you wait a little to get married. The only thing is that you might be more mature and pick up on things that you wouldn’t have noticed before. I know that my perception of what marriage was completely changed as I went from early teenagerhood to late teenagerhood. It does have to do with maturity, but I think that once you’ve reached a certain level of maturity, you don’t have to worry about gaining more and wait for that.

    I also like your point about giving in to the other spouses’s slightly irrational desires and wishes. We all have our mishigasim, and would like our spouse to accept them as well. And respecting each other and understanding each other is the first key to a good marriage. I may not agree with you, but I respect your opinion.

  8. When we first got married, my husband, a warm, out-going, but still reserved “European” ben-Torah type and I started off a kollel life style. We had little money to speak of. Thankfully, my husband, now a prominent New York attorney, and I look back at thouse “tough” times with nostalgia.

    The story I would like to share is that I found out, by fluke–from his kid sister, no less–that my husband did not eat lunch for nearly a year so as to save up for an third-year anniversary gift for me. I cannot help but cry as I think of how he was so incredibly happy and easy going and never, ever mentioned it.

  9. Pingback: Random Repost: Just Because I Like It | Bad for Shidduchim

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